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Fresh approach to dilapidated state buildings could slash R5bn rental bill

Home Business Management Facilities Management Fresh approach to dilapidated state buildings could slash R5bn rental bill

PUBLIC Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille recently revealed that the government spent R5 billion on renting private buildings during the financial year ending March 2020. Most of this could be saved if the government worked with private companies to manage and restore the state’s own structures.

That’s according to Lydia Hendricks, Business Development Director at Facilities Management (FM) Solutions, who said the government has a portfolio of more than 93,000 buildings. “Many of these hold great historical value and should be more than adequate to accommodate the public servants and departments they were meant to house – provided that they were in a safe and habitable state.

“The fact that state departments needed to rent private buildings from landlords shows the urgent need for collaboration between the public and the private sector – especially when it comes to managing valuable property assets.”

Hendricks said that traditionally, government’s approach to property management had been to steer funds towards upgrading derelict buildings at huge capital costs instead of directing enough funds toward preserving their assets.

“Historically, the government was steadfast in managing their buildings themselves and applied a reactive approach. This meant that massive financial injections were needed to restore the structures to their former glory. In many cases, the renovation and repair projects were done long after disgruntled and frustrated departments had moved out to find more suitable and safe accommodation. Because some buildings were left vacant, the burden on the State’s coffers only became heavier.”

Additionally, she said, the absence of a robust facilities management plan backed by a financial plan to preserve and extend the lifecycle of these assets, meant that the negative cycle continued unabated for many years.

“Owing to the size and complexity of managing buildings and assets at this scale, for many years decision makers at the top had no real data to know whether the state property assets were being effectively managed.

“The government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) sought to address this, but the wheels churned too slowly. When conducting our conditions audits, we still find that some government departments have no clear understanding of what their asset portfolios need to include, nor what the true state of their assets are.”

Hendricks advocates that fixing this problem starts with government admitting that they need help and accepting guidance from professional facilities management experts who would be able to give them a thorough understanding of the built-in systems, as well as develop a detailed recovery and restoration plan.

“A robust and measurable FM support plan will not only ensure building compliance, but also the sustainability and reliability of all government’s operating systems. This includes the technology and  the human resources that drive and manage it.

“FM is able to play a huge role in aligning service delivery and infrastructure. Because valuable assets are preserved and maintained, interruption to services are kept to a minimum and strategic objectives of the organization are met,” she said.

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